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34. Born into the family of God

The Master's Instructions about Christian's together. (Matthew 16:13-19).

God does not intend anyone to live an isolated Christian life. Much of the New Testament teaches the believer how to be integrated into God’s family. The promises our Lord Jesus made were frequently directed to groups of people, to churches, rather than to individual Christians. In John 14:1-4 ‘many rooms’ are prepared for a company of people. In Acts 1:4-8 ‘the Holy Spirit’ and ‘power’ are promised to the disciples collectively.

The meaning of ‘church’

From Matthew 16:13-19 we can learn our Lord’s intention for His church. The word is used here for the first time in the Bible. It means ‘an

assembly of people’, those who are called out of the crowd to become a


By looking at Acts 5:11; 8:1, 3 and 11:26 we can see that the church is

definitely people, and not premises.

Membership of the church

Since the church belongs to Christ and is being built by Him, He knows who

are members and who are not. He is the One through Whom the Father

and the Holy Spirit are calling a people out of the world. In Matthew 16

Peter had something revealed to him by God. He saw Jesus Christ as the

Son of the living God. Peter responded by faith. He gave a clear

declaration of Who he believed Jesus to be.

Today people become members of the true church in exactly the same

way. It happened in Jerusalem’s market-place in Acts 2. There was

revelation (v.36), and response (v.41). Then the last verses go on to

describe the collective Christian community.

Peter and John later described the community in their letters. People

‘built into a spiritual house’ (1 Peter 2:4-5). People ‘born of God’ who

‘believe in Jesus Christ’ (1 John 5:1-5).

The church meeting

Wherever a group of Christians gather in the name of our Lord Jesus

Christ, there is a church. The New Testament knew such gatherings by

place names (Romans 16:1, 5; 1 Corinthians 1:2; Philemon v.2).

In Acts there was a clear numbering of the believers giving a knowledge

of who was inside and who was outside the church. Trace the growth

through Acts 1:15; 2:41; 4:4; 5:14 and 6:1, 7. In Acts 9:26-28 we see Paul

trying to join the church and eventually being accepted on the testimony

of Barnabas.

The benefits of such a collective commitment and community can be

easily understood.

The Christians could:

  • encourage each other,

  • comfort each other,

  • support each other,

  • have a greater collective impact on the larger community

  • and experience the special presence of Jesus and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

  • they could pray together.

  • they could learn to love one another.

  • they could have the rough edges knocked off their own lives.

  • they could learn from each other.

A genuine profession of repentance towards God and faith in our Lord

Jesus Christ, together with a personal faith in the living God, Father, Son

and Holy Spirit, will be expressed best in church membership – joining up

with a collection of other Christians as a church.

Discussion guide for ‘Born into the family of God’

1. Describe your church family. What do they meet for? How often?

Why do they do this?

2. According to Matthew 16:13-20, Who’s is the church? Who will build

the church? Why is it important to remember this?

3. Can you find in these verses how a person becomes a member of

this church of Jesus?

• They are told about their own shortcomings

• They listen to God tell them about their Saviour

• They speak out the Lordship of Jesus Christ

God’s way of working, His revelation to us, always requires a

response from us.

4. If we think of God as “our Father in heaven”, what lessons can we

learn about the Christian church family from our human families,

especially from our relationships with our fathers? What does/did our

father do for us? What do we do for him? etc.

5. Look at all the New Testament letters. In the first chapter and

the first few verses they describe the church they were written

to. How many can you find? How is each church described?

6. Today, local churches in an area of a village, town or city, may call

themselves after their location. They may have conditions of

membership, conditions that people must meet before they can be

members. Does your church have any conditions for membership?

What are they?

7. The simplest of conditions for membership are as follows:

• Profession of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord

Jesus Christ, expressed in baptism

• Personal living faith in God the Father, God the Son and God

the Holy Spirit, One God in three persons

• Belief in the divine inspiration of the Bible and their final

authority in all matters of faith and conduct

How do these compare with your church?

Are the differences important? Why? Why not?


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